Plasticity of the Sensorimotor Cortex Representation of the Reading Finger in Braille Readers

Brain. 1993 Feb;116 ( Pt 1):39-52. doi: 10.1093/brain/116.1.39.


We studied the organization of the somatosensory cortex in proficient Braille readers, recording somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs) in 10 subjects and using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in five subjects, and compared the results with those of 15 control subjects. Somatosensory evoked potentials were elicited by a focal electrical stimulus to the tip of the index finger and recorded from a contralateral 4 x 4 grid of scalp electrodes centred around C3' and C4'. Transcranial magnetic stimulation, with an 8-shaped coil centred over the same scalp positions, was delivered simultaneously with, and at different intervals after, the finger stimulus. The results of the right index (reading) finger in Braille readers were compared with those of their left index (non-reading) finger and of the right and left index fingers of the control subjects. The scalp areas from which we recorded N20 and P22 components of the SEP with an amplitude of at least 70% of the maximal amplitude recorded in each trial were significantly larger in SEPs evoked from the reading fingers. Detection of the stimulus applied to the reading finger was blocked by TMS delivered over a larger contralateral scalp area and during a longer time window after the stimulus. These experiments suggest that reading Braille is associated with expansion of the sensorimotor cortical representation of the reading finger.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blindness / physiopathology*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fingers / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Reading*
  • Sensory Aids*
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*